music clip of the day


Category: classical

Thursday, April 24th

never enough

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor
Rafal Blechacz (1985-), piano, live

1st Movement

2nd Movement

3rd Movement

4th Movement


can’t wait 

Tomorrow Blechacz (pronounced, I just learned, BLEH-hatch), who recently won the 2014 Gilmore Artist Award,* will be at the University of Chicago’s Mandel Hall, playing Bach and Beethoven and Chopin.


*New York Times (1/8/14):

[O]ne of the great windfalls of the music world . . . the $300,000 Gilmore Artist Award . . . is given every four years to an unsuspecting pianist deemed worthy of a great career by a panel of anonymous judges who conduct their worldwide talent search in secret.

Tuesday, April 15th

Yesterday this piece, by a composer often heard here, won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music.

John Luther Adams (1953-), Become Ocean (2013); Seattle Symphony


taking a break

I’m taking some time off—back in a while.

Monday, April 14th

never enough

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23
Krystian Zimerman (1956-), piano, live

Wednesday, April 9th


Clarity, mystery: they often act like strangers—not here.

Anton Webern (1883-1945), Variations for Piano, Op. 27 (1936)
Andy Costello (piano), live

Saturday, April 5th


Gyorgy Ligeti (1923-2006), Piano Etudes (Book 1), No. 6 (Automne a Varsovie [Autumn in Warsaw]); Susanne Anatchkova (piano), live



reading table

[N]othing has ever been—nor will it ever be—the way it used to be.

—Aleksandar Hemon, The Book of My Lives



Some things cannot be planned for, nor can they be explained. Such was the case this week when a friend of my son Alex—someone who was in our house, full of conversation, just a few weeks ago—killed himself. The funeral was yesterday. Before it began Alex and I talked briefly with the mother and father, whom I had never met. I told them one of the things I appreciated about their son was that he wasn’t merely polite to me, his friend’s father. He wanted to connect. A greater sorrow a parent could not know.

Saturday, March 29th

never enough

Last night, while I was listening to this, rain fell on my parched leaves.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Sonata for Solo Violin in C major; Kristóf Baráti (1979-), Moscow, 2008

1st movement

2nd movement

3rd movement

4th movement



reading table

Past has passed away.
Future has not arrived.
Present does not remain.

—Ryokan (1758-1831; fragment, translated from Japanese by Kazuaki Tanahashi)


Thursday, March 27th

sounds of joy

Bela Bartok, Thelonious Monk, African polyrhythms—he listened to everything.

Gyorgy Ligeti (1923-2006), Piano Concerto (1985-88), excerpts; Ensemble Dal Niente (William Choi, piano; Michael Lewanski, cond.), live, Evanston, Ill., 2011

1st movement


5th movement

Tuesday, March 18th

sleepless in Chicago

Some folks sleep all night, or so I’ve heard. Maybe you’re one of them. If not, here’s a mix you might try—a sonic tonic.

1. Play this on repeat.

John Luther Adams (1953-), “The Farthest Place” (2001); piano (Clint Davis), vibraphone (Brian Archinal & Andy Bliss), bass (Satoru Tagawa), violin (Lydia Kabalen); University of Kentucky (Lexington), 2008


Waterfall Sounds, Cow Creek

3. Adjust volume levels to taste.



reading table

For you fleas too
the nights must be long,
they must be lonely.

—Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827; translated from Japanese by Robert Hass)

Thursday, March 6th

never enough

Bach’s six cello suites, which I’ve been listening to for over forty years, never fail to astonish me—they breathe.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Suite No. 1 in G major for Unaccompanied Cello; Jan Vogler (1964-), live, New York, 2013



reading table

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course . . . .

The Odyssey, opening lines (Robert Fagles’ translation)

Smooth sailing wouldn’t make much of a story.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

If you wanted to conjure a world of mystery, what better instrument to lead the way than one that possesses neither the brightness of the violin nor the darkness of the cello?

Morton Feldman, Rothko Chapel (1971), live, Houston (Rothko Chapel), 2011; Kim Kashkashian (viola), Brian Del Signore (percussion), Sarah Rothenberg (celeste), Maureen Broy Papovich (soprano), Houston Chamber Choir (Robert Simpson, cond.)






Another take? Here.



Rothko Chapel


The Rothko Chapel is an interfaith sanctuary, a center for human rights — and a one-man art museum devoted to 14 monumental paintings by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. The Houston landmark, commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil, opened its doors 40 years ago, in February 1971.

For the past four decades, the chapel has encouraged cooperation between people of all faiths — or of no faith at all. While the chapel itself has become an art landmark and a center for human-rights action, the sanctuary’s creator never lived to see it finished. Rothko committed suicide in 1970.

Approaching the chapel from the south, visitors first see a steel sculpture called Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman in the middle of a pool — it appears to be floating on the surface of the water. The chapel itself is a windowless, octagonal brick building. Solid black doors open on a tiny glass-walled foyer. (The foyer was walled off from the rest of the interior when the Gulf Coast’s notorious humidity began to affect the paintings.)

The main room is a hushed octagonal space with gray stucco walls, each filled by massive paintings. Some walls feature one canvas, while on others, three canvases hang side by side to form a triptych. A baffled skylight subdues the bright Houston sun, and the surfaces of the paintings change dramatically as unseen clouds pass outside. There are eight austere wooden benches informally arranged, and today, a few meditation mats. A young woman brings the meditation hour to a close by striking a small bowl with a mallet, creating a soft peal of three bells in the intense silence of the room.

Concerts, conferences, lectures, weddings and memorial services all take place in the chapel throughout the year, but on most days you will find visitors — about 55,000 annually come to see, to meditate, to write in the large comment book in the foyer, to read the variety of well-thumbed religious texts available on benches at the entrance.


These paintings do not feature the luminous color fields that made Rothko famous. The paintings in the chapel are dark, in purplish or black hues. And there’s a reason for that, says [chapel historian Suna] Umari.

“They’re sort of a window to beyond,” she explains. “He said the bright colors sort of stop your vision at the canvas, where dark colors go beyond. And definitely you’re looking at the beyond. You’re looking at the infinite.”


At first glance, the paintings appear to be made up of solid, dark colors. But look closely, and it becomes evident that the paintings are composed of many uneven washes of pigment that create variations in every inch. Stepping back, waves of subtle color difference appear across the broad surfaces — leading to an unmistakable impression of physical depth.


Though Mark Rothko didn’t live to see the sanctuary he created, Christopher Rothko says his father knew what it should be.

“It took me a while to realize it, but that’s really my father’s gift, in a sense, to somebody who comes to the chapel. It’s a place that will really not just invite, but also demand a kind of journey.”

—Pat Dowell, “Meditation and Modern Art Meet In Rothko Chapel,” NPR, 3/1/11


reading table

Our lives are Swiss -
So still – so Cool -
Till some odd afternoon
The Alps neglect their Curtains
And we look farther on!

Italy stands the other side!
While like a guard between -
The solemn Alps -
The siren Alps
Forever intervene!

—Emily Dickinson


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